As we journey toward the next election New initiatives, movements, campaigns and actions are cropping up with a mission to elect leaders that are accountable to Nigerians. Dear nation builder to achieve success, there are 11 factors to consider.

1. Collaboration & Synergy (Centralized Decentralization).

Irrespective of your position in regards to the #EndSARS Protest, you can agree that one of the crucial variables that led to its success in terms of mobilization and engagement was that power and decision making were decentralized, there was no central leadership. People took ownership of the movement and did what they thought was best. It gave birth to new ideas, innovations and actions that made it difficult to stop the protests by going after its leaders.
I am sure that this framework will be applied in 2023 and beyond as Nigerians organize to elect the leaders of their choice. For starters the fact you are reading this means you have an idea on what you want to do or you are thinking about it, so do thousands of other people like you, they may even have a similar idea. Therefore, there is a need to eliminate the duplication of efforts and ensure that individuals and organizational actions are coordinated and complementary.

It is time to reach out to leaders like you, meet and engage with like minds as you launch that new idea or initiative. To ensure success there is a need to develop a framework that enables people and organizations who share the same goals to come together and collaborate while maintaining their independence.

2. Think Strategy, learn and keep an open mind.

There is a need to plan, think and act strategically, the game of politics is powered by strategy not emotions, aspiration or passion, key players in politics spend millions of dollars to engage experienced consultants with years in experience with winning elections for their candidates, they have data, money, power and they are organized. Please do not fall for the trap of simplistic thinking or solutions in regards to how you intend to achieve your goals; such as If only we get young people to vote, if only we unite around a candidate, if only we start a political party, a protest, or whatever new idea you can come up with etc. The reality is that in trying to craft a strategy, most times as individuals or organizations, we are influenced by our thinking, education, experiences, resources and world view. Our background has an impact in regards to the solutions we propose and can hamper our ability to see the big picture, the world as it is and the various variables that are at play.

Even as I write this, I understand that some of the proposals I have up here are a reflection of my experience and world view.

Think strategy, seek knowledge, collaborate with those with more experience, learn, question the status quo and ensure that before embarking on this journey, you have a well thought out strategy that will enable the success of your mission.

3. An Inclusive, Issues driven movement powered by policy.

A lot of the conversations around 2023 especially amongst young people currently revolves around, voter education, getting behind potential youth candidates, launching a party and thinking of ways to organize. It is crucial that as we embark on this journey that Issues and Policy take centre stage.
We need to first start by properly articulating the issues that need to be addressed, craft the necessary policy instruments and recruit candidates that will deliver on them. In crafting these issues, we need to ensure it is inclusive and that it is a reflection of the interests of everyone, irrespective of their sex, age, region, religion, status, world view and realities etc. There needs to be a rigorous debate and discussion on issues like restructuring, gender-based violence, the right of women, Security, Police Reform, ASUU, Education, Power, NNPC and Fuel subsidy, the Economy, local government autonomy etc. The outcome of this discussions will be a set of issues and policy demands from citizens at the local, state and government level addressed to those who need our votes, their is also need for an agreed framework to hold them accountable if they fail.

 

A piece of advice for candidates planning to run for office, don’t build your agenda in a silo or think you know what people want from research conducted by think tanks alone. Go on a tour where you listen and engage with the citizenry, hear their problems, listen to their pain on a personal level, understand the issues that matter most to them, based on this experience, you can then proceed to draft your agenda.

 

We can take a lesson from the Sustainable development goals, in regards to the methodology used in its conceptualization and how it is now a rallying goal for the world.

In essence, for 2023 and beyond, we need to craft an inclusive Agenda and vote in candidates who adopt that agenda as opposed candidates simply going by the benevolence of their hearts and faculty to tell us what they think we need or plan to do if elected.

4. Local before federal approach.

The nation is currently structured such that the presidency wields a lot of power. It is therefore not a surprise that a bulk of the ongoing conversation revolves around channelling a majority of our resources towards effecting change in Abuja. I am of the opinion that there is a need to embark on a down-up approach. Politics is local, a lot of bad governance, that is holding us down can be traced to the people who are our brothers and sister, they are from our villages, they attend village meetings, we know their children and family members, we sent them to represent us, instead, they leverage our collective ignorance and lack of concern to steal our allocations and divert contracts designed to transform our communities. We must start by holding them accountable. 

From an organizing perspective, for as low as 70,000 votes, you can change your local government chairman. In 2019 a state governor, that oversees Nigeria’s economic epicentre won with around 736,000 votes in the last election, a majority of those who voted, managed social media communications, manned situation rooms and conducted a grassroots campaign for these politicians were young people.

 

Imagine in 2023 that LGA officials, State senators, and governors, are helmed by people who truly represent us, imagine the progress that we would have secured. 

Instead of solely focusing on how to change Abuja, we will need to change the conversation to how can I as an individual drive good governance, in my state and local government by ensuring fellow citizens like me vote in local leaders that will work for the people.

Our leaders need to know that it is no longer business as usual?

5. Engage in efforts to educate Nigerians on how power works, so that they can hold the right people accountable and make better voting decisions.

Building on the last point, there has been an uneven focus on the role of the presidency in shaping development outcomes, to the detriment of ignoring other crucial players who wield significant power that affect our daily lives. For example, the core functions of a local government include pre-school, primary and adult education; public health; town planning; roads and transport; refuse collection and disposal; cemeteries and crematoria; environmental protection; sports; leisure and open spaces; and religious facilities. Imagine what will happen if those we elect at the local level can deliver on these responsibilities. There are issues facing Nigeria that are as a result of bad laws, and policies that can only be addressed by the Legislature but we instead focus so much on the presidency, this is not to state that the executive arm of government does not wield a lot of power. I am alluding to the fact that there needs to be proper education of the populace on how the government works and who they ought to hold accountable for any demands they have.

Aside from improving the effectiveness of our engagement, an educated electorate will ensure that all players are aware that they cannot hide under the cloak of the incompetence of the executive as an excuse to fail to deliver on their responsibilities.

6. Grassroots organizing & Voter sensitization.

A majority of us live in a bubble, we’ve got a job, can afford a smartphone and data, and we can get things to trend on Twitter and Instagram. Sadly the majority of those we need to engage, are not on these platforms and no matter how we try to understand their realities we can’t.

To succeed as a movement we will need to break our bubbles and go on an aggressive charm & PR Offensive targeted at engaging those in the grassroots. They do not understand our big English and they don’t care about the change and good governance English we speak, they know that you will not be there for them when they need to pay their child’s school fees and that you will not be there for them when they’ve starved for 3 days. They see you send your kids to school every day in your Toyota and travel abroad for vacation. They have less faith in you and the ideas you spew. They have more faith and listen to their pastor, chief priest, imam, the village head, market leader, community leader, Gang leaders, friends, the popular local radio station, local celebrities, and sadly their local representatives who may oppress them etc. Your viral youtube video, campaign, trending hashtags do not affect them because they cannot even see it in the first place etc.

To take our country back we need this set of people to make the right voting decisions. To achieve this we will need to first get down from our gated communities, zoom meetings and tweet chats to understand how to reach those in the grassroots and figure out a way to move the needle to our advantage.

7. Develop a plan to combat the big 4, Tribalism, Religion, Ego & Greed.

If you have not watched this video by  Mr Atedo Peterside please do, he made a powerful statement which I am paraphrasing as follows “The 5 per cent who rule us can do so because they deploy a divide and rule tactics”.  The people who are currently at the helm of affairs can control us using the big 4 Tribalism, Religion, Ego & Greed.

They will weaponize the big 4 against your movement and use bad actors and strategies from a spy’s playbook to stir up and feed ethic and religious sentiments. A majority of Nigerians are hungry and have lost hope in the system and will take whatever they get from whoever it is that gives them the next meal, that is why in every election you come across news of politicians spending billions of naira to rig elections and pay voters to vote for them. 

 

You will need to factor this variable and figure out a way to combat this threat.

 8. Candidate, sourcing, vetting, endorsement, campaign support and accountability framework.

To successfully take our nation back we would need to find the right candidates to support and rally around. Their needs to be a well thought out framework to differentiate those who are in the game simply because they are power-thirsty, and those who are committed to serving the people who elect them. It is fallacy to think that young people are not corrupt, or will not rise to become the next oppressors when they get into power. Our wins as a movement can be grossly dampened in the scenario whereby the same people we fought to elect to turn around to behave and act like those we rallied around to get rid off for non-performance. 

 

We will need to create a framework to enable us to find the right candidates, vet them against a chosen set of criteria, endorse and provide support to their campaigns. We would also need mechanisms to hold them accountable and punish them if they fail to deliver on their mandate.

9. Media, News and Communication plan to combat misinformation, fake news, manage a crisis, educate and engage voters.

In the wake of the Lekki shooting if you watch the reportage from traditional media houses, you would think that all is well and that the nation was at peace. If you watch NTA, you would think that the government is doing a good job with the mandate entrusted on them by the people. It is no longer news that the media has a very significant role in shaping beliefs, perceptions, feeding ideologies and influencing behaviour. We are what we consume. The people in power understand this and have invested heavily in this regard, they currently own or have interest in some of the top media houses you can think of, and have some form of influence in their editorial decision. They are also investing heavily to set up online squads of keyboard warriors and trolls whose sole goal is to spread disinformation, misinformation, exploit our tribal and ethinic sentiments and conduct information warfare designed to whitewash the activities of their principals, discredit their opponents and sow discord. 

We would need to figure out a strategy to combat their whims and ensure that the voters, the people who need to hear our message hear them. Interestingly the people who work for these media houses are young, the journalist who publish reports, the bloggers and webmasters who manage forums, the cameramen and presenters are made up of young people we need to aggressively engage with them and ensure that they understand they have a crucial role in delivering the nation of our dream. This is aside from the aggressive campaigns and outreaches we will engage in to ensure our voices are heard.

10. Fundraising and Financial accountability.

Elections are expensive, according to an audit conducted the APC and PDP spent 7.7 billion combined on the 2015 elections. Irrespective of how passionate we are, we live in a society where cash is king, and money can heavily influence the trajectory of your campaign, from media coverage, billboards, logistics and improving your operational capabilities, securing professional services etc. Running for office is no small financial endeavour, there are scenarios where people have ended up going bankrupt in pursuit of their political ambition. To succeed in getting the right leaders elected, you need to raise money, a lot of it. The advantage you have compared to those you are up against is the fact that the movement is run and powered by passionate people. You would therefore have a higher Return on investment for every naira spent. Figuring out how to raise funding is crucial to the survival of your goal.

11. Advocate for electoral reform, develop a framework to watch the vote, and a strategy to dismantle the vote-buying and rigging machinery of established interests.

Getting the right people in office can only be done through the ballot. We would need to ensure that trusted and reliable candidates can get their party nominations and go on to win the elections. Currently, our electoral process is broken and is in dire need of reforms we need to fight for these reforms. There is a high prevalence of rigging, vote-buying and malpractices conducted by polling officials and some resident electoral commissioners. A handful of people in a room can subvert the will of the people, and our judicial system is heavily compromised. 

The silver lining is that young people are usually the tools deployed by those who oppress us to steal elections, from corrupt NYSC poll officials that connive with party officials to thumbprint on ballots, to thugs hired to intimidate voters and disrupt the process the list goes on. We need to critically develop and execute a strategy to ensure that our hard-fought efforts are not stolen from us by shady electoral officials.